Evolution of the Broadly Rifted Zone in Southern Ethiopia through Gravitational Collapse and Extension of Dynamic Topography


The Broadly Rifted Zone (BRZ) is a ~ 315 km wide zone of extension in southern Ethiopia. It is located between the Southern Main Ethiopian Rift and the Eastern Branch of the East African Rift System (EARS) represented by the Kenya-Turkana Rift. The BRZ is characterized by NE-trending ridges and valleys superimposed on regionally uplifted (~ 2 km average elevation) terrain. Previous studies proposed that the BRZ is an overlap zone resulted from northward propagation of the Kenya-Turkana Rift and southward propagation of the Southern Main Ethiopian Rift. To understand the relationship between the BRZ's extensional style and its crustal and upper mantle structures, this work first estimated the Moho depth using the two-dimensional (2D) radially-averaged power spectral analysis of the World Gravity Map. Verification of these results was accomplished through lithospheric-scale 2D forward gravity models along E-W profiles. This work found that the Moho topography beneath the BRZ depicts a dome-like shape with a minimum depth of ~ 27 km in the center of the dome. This work proposes that the Moho doming, crustal arching underlying the BRZ and associated topographic uplift are the result of asthenospheric mantle upwelling beneath the BRZ. This upwelling changed to a NE-directed lateral mantle flow at shallower depth. This is supported by seismic tomography imaging which shows slow S-wave velocity anomaly at lithospheric depth of 75 km to 150 km stretching in a NE-SW direction from beneath the BRZ to the Afar Depression. This work proposes that the asthenospheric upwelling created gravitationally unstable dynamic topography that triggered extensional gravitational collapse leading to the formation of the BRZ as a wide rift within the narrow rift segments of the EARS.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Geographic Coverage

Southern Ethiopia

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version


File Type





© 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Mar 2017